Eating foods that keep our blood sugar levels stable is equally important for us all, including those who have to manage their diabetes. Some foods have a bigger effect on blood sugar levels than others. The more these levels vary throughout the day, the more we want to eat. This could lead to unnecessary weight gain and ultimately some lifestyle diseases, such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
Selecting foods that provide a slower and longer lasting release of energy, should be the focus. The energy we need mainly comes from carbohydrates and fats. Foods that contain soluble fibre, like legumes, sweet potato, oats and oat bran, are great to keep blood sugar levels stable. Foods like these are known for having a low GI (glycaemic index) as they cause a more controlled and/or sustained release of energy into the bloodstream. These also include complex and unrefined carbs, like wholewheat bread and brown rice, which cause a slower rise in your blood sugar levels compared to more refined carbs. Note that low GI foods are however not lower in carbs than a high GI version of the same food. Portion control is therefore still important. For instance low GI bread has the same amount of carbs as regular bread, but is the better option as it will increase blood sugar levels at a slower rate than regular bread. Food labels may often indicate whether food is low GI or not and it is helpful in making better food choices. See for more about food labels.
Starchy foods, like pasta, rice, potatoes, bread and pap contain a lot of carbs and are often consumed in too large portions. People often underestimate how much of these foods they eat, due to the way it is served. For instance pasta is often eaten in a large portion – usually the equivalent of six slices of bread. The combination of more than one type of starch, e.g. potatoes and bread, at a meal, also contributes to eating too many carbohydrates.
A healthier way of eating does not only mean avoiding foods like sugary and refined treats, but also including ingredients known for their nutritional value and health benefits. These include fresh fruit and veggies, nuts and seeds, oats, legumes, healthy fats (like avocado) and lean proteins (like eggs and chicken). Eating these foods will not only help to manage your blood sugar levels, but provide the body with important nutrients like minerals, vitamins and fibre.